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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  May 30, 2017 2:30am-3:01am BST

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told his russian counterpart, vladimir putin, that any use of chemical weapons in syria is a red line that would invite immediate french reprisals. their meeting was described as frank and frosty. after two days of airport chaos, the boss of british airways says sorry for the disruption caused by its computer meltdown but refuses to resign. alex cruise denies the fact it was due to shedding it staff and he blamed a power surge. services are returning to normal. the golfer, tiger woods, has denied that he'd been drinking when he was stopped while driving his car in the us state of florida. police said theyd charged the former world number one with being under the influence of alcohol. in a statement, woods blamed an unexpected reaction to prescription medication. now on bbc news, stephen sackur is in new york city for hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk from new york
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city. i'm stephen sackur. one of the most extraordinary features of the first months of the trump presidency has been the deepening sense of a war between the white house and the so—called mainstream media, and top of the president's enemies list, well, it's the new york times, the grand old lady of american newspapers which mr trump portrays asa newspapers which mr trump portrays as a purveyor of lies. well, my guest today is the executive editor of the times, dean baquet. is what is printed in here fake news off there? —— orfair. dean baquet, welcome to hardtalk. thank you. good to be here.
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i think we have to start with the relationship between president trump and the established, he would say mainstream, media. this is something you said, even before he was elected, the month before he won the white house. you said, "trump says things that are demonstrably false, i think he is challenging our language — he will have changed journalism, he really will." yeah. how do you feel after more than 100 days of the trump presidency? he has. and i think what i said then still holds. we're used to politicians obfuscating, exaggerating, etc. but this president sometimes says things on monday that goes against what his advisers said on sunday and then he shifts gears on tuesday. but that's not the most profound way he has changed. he does things, he makes decisions that defy the logic of american politics,
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firing james comey, the fbi director. if you had asked me why the president fired the fbi director who was investigating him, i would say that it is so politically unwise. he did it and, so far, no major political repercussions. i mean, a lot of stories, a lot of questions. i think he just sort of challenges the way we look at the world, the way we look at politicians. not only because of the way he stretches the truth but because he does things other american politicians just don't do and wouldn't do. one of the challenges he presents is a very direct challenge to you because he calls you and your newspaper liars. he says that you provide fake news. he says that you are fundamentally bad people. he has called the press and particularly the new york times enemies of the state. enemies of the people. which is an even more profound statement to make. that is right.
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so what i am getting at is it seems to me, trenches have been dug. there is a sense of metaphorical warfare between you and him. i don't see it that way. i think he may have dug a trench but i'm not going to dig one. myjob is to take the things that he says like that, make them part of the coverage, but myjob is not to be at war with him. i actually think it is his tactic to try to coax us into war, i think it is a tactic of his to try to discredit us. the biggest mistake i can make and we can make is to fall for it. myjob is to cover him. tough, aggressive and fair. but not to did my own trench. "not to dig my own trench." well, you tell me, then, about something that your media commentator and columnist jim rutenburg said not so long ago. "if you view a trump presidency as something that is potentially dangerous, then your reporting is bound to reflect that." "you would move closer than you ever have before to being —
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and this is an important word — oppositional." and i would put it to you that the new york times has become oppositional. i would disagree with that. i would even disagree withjim. but you said, with all respect, you said that after rutenberg's column, you were quoted as saying, "he has nailed it". you appeared to agree with him. yeah, but i don't think he nailed the fact that we have become oppositional, that column was written before the inauguration. i don't think, and i'm working really hard not to do this, i don't want to be oppositional to him. here is the problem with being the opposition party to donald trump, in the end. it's not just about covering donald trump. if you are the opposition party to donald trump, what happens? whether it is three or four years from now, or eight years from now, a new president comes in. maybe a president who you were not in opposition to. and then you are just nothing but a lapdog for the next person. so we can be tough but we don't
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want to be oppositional. i do not want to be seen as the leader of the opposition party to donald trump. but do you, asjim rutenberg obviously does, see trump as dangerous? i wouldn't say that. i will letjim have his opinion about that one. he has expressed his opinion, that is what he is paid to do. you are the editor of the new york times and i want to pursue this idea that the paper appears to have a world view which says president trump is dangerous. i don't think that's true. here's the world view i have. the world view i have is that we are tough on presidents. we are especially tough on presidents who sometimes say one thing monday and do something else tuesday. he is also the subject, or his campaign is the subject, of an extraordinary investigation. he is also the wealthiest man ever to be in the white house, he has not released his taxes. we don't know enough about his income.
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if you add up all of my coverage of all of those things, i can see that where he sits, that looks like we're building opposition to him. that is not the way i see it. i see it as covering all those things aggressively. but you are sounding so zen—like in your approach to donald trump. are editors zen—like?! i am mindful of very specific things which have happened in the last few months which seem to me to be quite important. for example, i think back in february there was an important white house briefing where your reporter was disinvited, effectively barred, from being present. we have also had other straws in the wind. donald trump at one point musing aloud, i think on twitter, that he might do away with white house briefings altogether because he could not see the use for them and he mightjust pronounce now and again himself to reporters. there are all sorts of different ways in which he is challenging the way that the mainstream media has in the past had a relationship
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with power, particularly with white house power. how significant are these changes? they are usually significant. this is a president who does not like the press he gets, no president ever likes the press he gets. he likes it less. this is a man who made his name in the real estate industry by manipulating the tabloids. he manipulated them about his love life. he manipulated them about the size of his buildings. he manipulated them about his success and his wealth and his values and their importance to society. he becomes president and i think he was expecting the same thing. fox news gave it to him. but we won't. what lessons do you take from the campaign itself? from the whole trump phenomenon, going back to the early days when few people took him seriously, all the way through the campaign, the convention and actually winning the white house. i think it is fair to say, for a long time, as a paper,
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you did not appear to take trump that seriously. would you at least accept that? i will accept a version of that. i don't think it is that we did not take him seriously because we covered the heck out of him. i think we did not quite have our minds wrapped around the anger in america that led to him. i guess the way i would flip it, it wasn't that we didn't take him seriously, we didn't take the trump phenomenon seriously. out of touch would be the phrase. i don't think that's the wrong phrase, i will accept that. i think that... by the way, i'm not sure anybody did. i think there was an anger in the country, not unlike the anger that led to brexit. there was anger in the country and anger at elites. we were seen as elites. i don't think we had ourfinger on the pulse of that anger. we wrote about the anger in the country but i don't think we quite understood the scope of it and how much people wanted change. i would agree with that.
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that hasn't changed. you are talking past tense but i'm talking present tense. i was listening yesterday to one of this country's well—known media commentators, howard kurtz. "millions are still disgusted with an out of touch press", he said. there are all sorts of polls i could quote you. i would say howie is a very nice guy but he writes for fox news, which is... well, he does now. but he has worked for the washington post. howie is a very nice guy, but that is a completely unscientific estimate that millions of people... well, here's something that at least has stats behind it. pbs news last night aired a poll. pbs, i'm sure you couldn't argue was in any way having an agenda which was against the mainstream media, but their poll suggested 32% of americans have trust in the media, down from 53% just two decades ago. something is going on. completely. i would say two things are going on. first, there is less trust in the media.
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but i also think the definition of what is the media is different. when i grew up, when i started, the media was your local paper, the new york times, the washington post, the journal and three television stations. the media now is us. it is facebook, it is 200 things. do i think i would like for people to have more trust in the new york times and do i think that is an issue for me? yes. i am just not completely convinced that the numbers reflectjust the new york times or the washington post. i think they reflect a wide definition of media. one more poll for you. a gallup poll in april that showed that two thirds of those americans who believe there is media bias think it is a liberal media bias towards the democratic party. right. i do think and i have said that the big media institutions in america happen to be in liberal cities. washington, mainly washington, new york and los angeles.
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i do think that skews our view of the world. i am not in denial at that. i think it is something that we need to work on. i do think that the influence... it is unfortunate that that the most powerful media organisations left standing are along the coasts. you are saying to me that you don't believe your newspaper right now truly gets middle america? i am going to make it a little more complicated than that. and not because i am obfuscating on the issue. i think there are some things about middle america that we don't quite have our minds wrapped around. religion. i grew up in a very catholic family. my parents went to church every sunday, i went to church every sunday. i am not particularly religious any more. i think that in new york and washington and los angeles, religion is seen as foreign.
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i don't think we understood in new york and washington or los angeles just how much the trade imbalance was affecting the lives of people in middle america. i do think that we could do a much betterjob. you talked about the importance of trust and you suggested that the new york times still has to do work to make sure that that bond of trust between newspaper and reader is strong. so let's talk a little bit about the mechanics of reporting, particularly in the era of the trump presidency. you, and i have been looking closely at the way you have reported, particularly the unfolding story of the allegations of connections, both pre—election and post—election, between the trump team and russia. it is a huge story. your reporting has been out front in many locations but it is heavily reliant on anonymous, unnamed sources. yes. do you worry about that? no. i worry in principle
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about newspapers relying on too many anonymous sources for unimportant stories. i think we are in an era when anonymous sources are important for really important stories. we would not know about the american drone campaign in yemen, pakistan, we would know nothing about the surveillance programme. i think anonymous sources are important and i don't think we would have got the stories about them and i think it is worth the trade—off. so let's just dig into one particular story. can you explain to me what the readership is supposed to make of it? on may 17th there was a new york times story. "trump appealed to comey to halt the inquiry of flynn". it is a big part of... we don't need to discuss... great story! i love that story! well, good, because you were
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the boss that put it in the paper. now, in your paper, the documentation of mr trump's request is the clearest evidence, it was said, that the president has tried to directly influence thejustice department and the fbi investigation into links between mr trump's associates in russia. now that is a heck of a claim. this is the clearest evidence, you say. butjust be straight with me. had your reporter on that story seen the memo that was the foundation of the story? as the story describes, he had it read to him by a very reliable source. all of it? all that he quoted from. yes. but did he know 100% that what he was quoted over the phone was the entire memo? certainly enough of the memo for us to be confident that it was in context. but also, he hadn't seen the memo? so he didn't know that what he was receiving on the phone was actually 100% the memo? at a certain point you have to rely on your sources, if they're sources you have done business with before. and the readership could have no idea who that source was? that's right.
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here's your alternative. you don't know about that story. which is better? having a story from anonymous sources or not knowing that the president of the united states did something that everybody thinks is worth investigating? i'm going to pick having the story. you're going to pick having the story because you want to believe that you can persuade your readers that you are 100% sure of your unnamed mystery source. that is one reason. i'm going to pick having the story because if i don't have the story, my readers won't even know about it. but what seems to be important to me is that the same reporter who wrote that story, based on the unnamed source about michael flynn and the trump administration's connections to russia, he is the same reporter who, back in 2015, broke a story for you in your paper about the aftermath of the san bernardino terror attack. he had an unnamed source telling him important things about the background of the two perpetrators, which turned into a major story. it turned out not to be true.
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i guess what i would say is the story that we were talking about before the trump story, i know the sources, i know where everything came from. you, personally? personally. you know the name? i know the name, i know everything about the story. i am absolutely certain it is true. and i am absolutely certain it will be borne out to be true. let's talk about a slightly different ethical challenge which has faced you in the last couple of days and i have brought with me a copy of the new york times from yesterday. it is entirely relevant because here, inside this edition, you divulged confidential secret information which the british police had sent to us intelligence agencies about the terrible manchester bombing. it included confidential photographs which gave a real idea of the making of the suicide bomb device, it gave the most graphic account of exactly how it had been done. it was all top secret, confidential. no.
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actually, it was not at the highest level of secrecy. it was at a level of secrecy that made it much more widely dispersed than people are acknowledging. it was not a top confidential secret. as far as the british police concerned, it was totally confidential. but there are literal classifications of confidentiality and it was not at the top. the reason it is important, at the very top means very few eyes saw it. this was much more widely distributed. the reason i am saying that is not unimportant, we're not talking about something known to two or three people. it infuriated the british authorities, starting with the police. this is what the uk national police chiefs council said. let's start with the police, it is kind of important. this is an ongoing investigation. 48 hours after 22 young people, including children, had been murdered, you chose to put on your front page pictures which the british police regarded
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as highly sensitive operational information. and right after that, the bbc and the guardian put it on theirfront pages. but that is no justification. i'm not saying it is, i am just pointing it out. right. this is what the uk national police chiefs council said. the revelations, they said, undermined our investigation. and not only that, they also undermined the confidence of victims, witnesses and their families. are you now prepared to say sorry? no, absolutely not. no. they have given no evidence that illustrates how this undermined their investigations. this is a kind of standard information that has been made
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public after terror attacks since september the 11th. if you go back and look at everything from the boston bombing to the september the 11th attacks. a picture of a backpack. nobody has ever offered any evidence that that got in the way of the investigations. but it was actually a picture of a timing device that came from the bomb. the police argument is simple. they do not want the terrorists, the enemies, to know what they know about a very active ongoing operation because the terrorist not knowing is a very important part of destabilising them and allowing the police to do their work. boy, we live in different press worlds. when our police say that, we say "prove it". they didn't prove it. i don't buy it. i don't buy that this hurt their investigation. we very thoughtfully and carefully published information that we publish after every terror attack in the world. while the operation is still ongoing, after 48 hours? absolutely. the boston bombing, we put stuff up within hours. some people watching this will think that is deeply arrogant.
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you say, i don't buy it, as though the police and the anti—terror, counter—terror personnel are simply making this up? when they say this could damage the operation, you say "i know more". i don't believe it. the british press and the american press have different attitudes here. you guys tend to believe what the authorities say right away. we tend to err on the side of publishing. and in this case, i erred on the side of publishing. it is just as important for people in the world to know about the mundane details of terrorist attacks, it is really important and that is what this is. i have seen no evidence, none, except for the broad statements of police, that it affected their investigations. and that is probably not quite enough for the american press. and what about the argument made by the prime minister, made by the mayor of manchester and made by the police also that not only did it undermine the investigation, it also fundamentally disrespected the people at the heart of this,
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the families of the victims, who did not want all of this information coming outjust 48 hours after their own relatives had been murdered? that is a much more sympathetic argument and it is one we took into account. i would ask you to look at the totality of our coverage. it has been very sensitive coverage. we wrote about the victims, we wrote about their lives, we talked to the families. i don't think any news organisation that is respectful, that is respectable and that understands its worth in society will hold back all information for fear of upsetting the family. that's not journalism. would you have done the same thing if these victims had been in new york city and not
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in manchester, england? we did it. we did it after september the 11th, we did it after the boston bombings. you mean you published stories which you knew could upset the victims right after the attack itself? i think that is a very skewed way of looking at it. we have never heard an outcry from victims over publishing this stuff, to this day. i came in this morning and i have been answering letters from people who... i get the criticism. you mean in england? yes, i have heard from no victims. none. no regrets? no regrets. before we end, let's just talk about the future of the new york times. your business model has been under enormous pressure. not least because your paper sales are in decline, your ad revenues from the newspaper sales are in decline and, of course, you have upped your online subscriptions and your digital ad revenues. but overall, you're in a very difficult place. does the newspaper have a future? oh yeah.
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look, all news organisations are in a difficult place somewhat. because our financial models have just been completely blown up in the internet age. i think the best news organisations have something that can be parlayed into the future. they do. and i think it is already proven, we have gained over half a million new subscribers over the last year. that is astonishing, we could never have done that in print. do i think we're out of the woods? no. but do i think i can see around the corner a bright future? yes, i do, actually. a very different future but i would argue a bright future. dean baquet, we have to end there but thanks very much for being on our programme. thank you so much, it has been a pleasure, it really has been. good morning.
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well, the bank holiday is over. it did actually end on a wet note for the north and east of england in particular. wet weather in parts of scotland. lots has been moving away out into the north sea. the east of england, low cloud first thing. very little rain to speak of. scattered showers in the west of england and wales. this band of rain, a cold front coming our way. a key feature for a few days. ahead of that, cold, 15, 16 degrees. as we start tuesday, low cloud in the east. quite dry.
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further west, rain for a time in northern ireland. that will move through. it will take a while to get to scotland. rain stretching down across england and wales. very little rain in the south—west. grey around the coast. moving inland, spells of sunshine, 19—20. in the south—eastern corner, warm and humid. 22 degrees. some rain in northern england and wales. light and patchy increasingly as it goes south and east. behind that, brightening up quite nicely. beginning to turn fresh. humidity dropping away. still some rain to be had in the north of scotland. roland garros, looking good for the next few days, 23, 24. the winds will be increasingly light. by the weekend, more sunshine. tuesday evening, back on our shores. patchy rain fizzling out towards the south—east. grey around the south and west.
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actually, a fresh start to the day on wednesday morning. that fresher air moving through all parts. a much better night for sleeping. wednesday itself, a more decent day. starting off windy towards the east of the uk. most places will have a decent day with light winds and sunny spells. further weather fronts are moving through the atlantic. a decent day. wind is easing down in the north—east. a good spell of sunshine for england and wales and parts of scotland. light winds and temperatures in the middle to upper teens, low 20s, a pleasant day indeed. on into thursday, and a lot of fine and dry whether to be had for england and wales and eastern scotland. western scotland and northern ireland later on will see this weather front moving in. it is making steady progress east. friday, cloud and outbreaks of rain around. ahead of all that rain in the south—eastern corner, it looks like it will be quite warm and humid once again. welcome to bbc news, broadcasting to viewers
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in north america and around the globe. our top stories: frank talk from the french president. emmanuel macron meets vladmir putin for the first time and issues a warning about the use of chemical weapons in syria. a week on from the manchester attack, exclusive bbc pictures of the bomber. salman abedi is seen shopping the day before, and police release an image of him with a suitcase. after two days of airport chaos, the boss of british airways says sorry for the disruption caused by its computer meltdown, but refuses to resign. tiger woods blames a reaction to prescription drugs for his "driving under the influence" arrest. and a steep rise in the number of deaths
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